In a remarkable recent opinion (Moradi v. Marsh USA, Inc., Case No. B239858, (Sept. 17, 2013, Ct. App. 2nd Dist.), a California court of appeal held that an employee was within the course and scope of her employment while on the way home from work when she decided to stop for frozen yogurt and a yoga class. The case is extraordinary because it represents a marked departure from the "going and coming rule," which provides that employees are not in the course and scope of their employment when commuting to or from work. The case is more striking when one considers that the employee admitted she was on her way to get a frozen yogurt, after which she intended to take a yoga class (who eats frozen yogurt before a yoga class?, but I digress), before heading home. On her way to the yogurt shop, the employee made a left turn in front of a motorcycle. The resulting collision ended badly for the motorcycle operator, as one might imagine, and litigation ensued.
You might ask, "why does it matter, whether she was in the 'course and scope of employment' at the time of the collision? It matters a great deal if you are the woman'semployer. Employers (and their insurers) are responsible for the acts of their employees "within the course and scope of employment." That fender-bender you are involved in during your morning or afternoon commute generally is not your boss's problem because of the "going and coming rule." Employers must take heed, however, that there are exceptions to this rule that could well render them liable for their employees' negligence before or after work hours.
In Moradi, the critical fact was that the employer required that the employee use her personal vehicle for business appointments during her work day. This is the so-called "required vehicle" exception to the "going and coming rule." In short, if the employer requires an employee to use the employee's personal vehicle for business purposes, the employer will be liable for the employee's negligent driving. The employee in Moradi was required, on average, to use her personal vehicle 2 to 5 times per week to attend off-site appointments and meetings. She used her vehicle the day of the collision to facilitate her employer's business and was scheduled to use it again the next day also to further her company's work interests. The court concluded, therefore, that employee's use of the vehicle to and from her home was sufficiently related to her employment to impose liability upon the employer.
The foregoing is intended for informational purposes only. If you have questions regarding your potential liability as an employer for your employee's actions or if you have been injured by someone that may have been in the course and scope of their employment, we encourage you to contact and retain a competent attorney to properly advise you. Proper advice can only be given based on a thorough investigation and understanding of the underlying facts. You should not assume the above-described legal authorities apply to your case. Legal matters are complex. If you are a business owner and would like to discuss or learn more about the issues mentioned above, please call (949) 582-1544 today to speak with a qualified and experienced business litigation lawyer here at Skorina Law Group, P.C.